Why Congress is creating a transgender task force

In light of increased transgender violence in the US in 2015, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus initiated a transgender task force Tuesday to give the 'T' in 'LGBT' more attention. 

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/File
Glamour's 'The Transgender Champion' honoree, Caitlyn Jenner, attends the 25th Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in New York.

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus announced a new congressional task force Tuesday, dedicated to transgender equality.

While this has been a historic year for LGBT rights, with the legalization of gay marriage across the US, transgender advocates such as LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D) of Colorado say transgender people are often left out of larger acceptance campaigns.

“We all celebrate the great strides we’ve made in recent years in the LGBT rights movement. But too many times, the ‘T’ in LGBT has been an afterthought,” he said at a Tuesday press conference.  

“And while the LGB community has been seeing a lot of advancements, we haven’t been talking enough about the transgender community,” Roddy Flynn, the executive director of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus told The Christian Science Monitor Wednesday. “This has been a year of increased visibility for the transgender community but also a year of increased violence.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) published a study in November showing that more transgender violence has taken place in 2015 than any other year ever recorded. At least 21 transgender people have already lost their lives in 2015, almost all of them women of color, the study finds.

“The lack of accurate and reliable data collection makes it impossible for advocates to know how widespread this violence really is,” the report notes. The directors of both organizations agree that they need “accurate reporting of bias-motivated incidents” so anti-transgender violence can be appropriately addressed. 

The new task force shares a similar goal. After announcing the task force, the LGBT Equality Caucus held the first Congressional forum on transgender violence, where advocates stressed the importance of starting a national database of these incidents.  

Irene Burks, a police commander in Prince George's County, Maryland, says it is important to track violence against transgender people because it gives both law enforcement and the general public a better idea of how and why such violence is committed, reports the PBS NewsHour. 

“The purpose of the task force is to analyze the challenges and barriers and figure out what the government’s role is in making life easier for transgender people,” Mr. Flynn tells the Monitor. “We need much more data about these barriers to the American dream.”

The task force is made up of nine members of the House of Representatives, two of whom have transgender family members. The chair of the task force, Rep. Mike Honda (D) of Calif., has a transgender granddaughter, while the committee's only Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, has a transgender son. 

“As the proud grandpa of a transgender grandchild, I hope she can feel safe at school without fear of being bullied,” Representative Honda tweeted in February.

“In our community and across the country, when I meet with the transgender community, they say: ‘Listen to us,’ ” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at a Tuesday press conference. “That’s what this task force is set up to do: to listen, to learn, to be informed, to act upon the transgender experience.” 

Honda adds, “It is our responsibility as leaders and public officials to ensure that all people are free from the fear of persecution, prejudice, or violence just for being who they are.”  

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